If you admired the striking supermoon in the sky last week, you may not have realised its significance to the Chinese calendar. The Lunar New Year begins on the first day of the following month, with the dark new moon. In 2018, that’s on Friday, February 16th.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated worldwide, from Taiwan to Indonesia, Mauritius to Australia. Chinese New Year celebrations take place around the world too.
But what does it all mean?
The Year of the Dog
The Dog is the eleventh of the twelve zodiac animals. These animals are also connected by year to one of the five elements of Chinese culture. 2018 is an Earth Dog year, so if you’re expecting a baby this lunar year, they may grow up communicative, serious and responsible in their working life.
It’s bad news for those born in previous Dog years, however: tradition has it that ill fortune awaits you in the lunar year of your birth sign. You can find out if you’re a Dog using this Chinese Zodiac Sign finder.
For Chinese families, the celebrations are preceded by a clearing away of the past year, ready for the new. Houses are thoroughly cleaned. Debts are settled. Even haircuts must be completed before the year is out, as it’s considered bad luck to cut hair at new year.
Chinese families traditionally gather on New Year’s Eve for a reunion meal – not only in China but in communities all around the world. This celebration varies from region to region; in northern mainland China, 500 million people will enjoy ‘Jiaozi’ dumplings, specially prepared to be eaten at midnight. Other popular dishes for the celebration include Buddha’s Delight, a vegetarian dish, and Niangao, a sticky New Year cake made with glutinous rice.
The familiar bright red decorations, lanterns and envelopes symbolize joy, virtue and sincerity. Firecrackers are said to scare away evil spirits, and after setting these off the household doors should be sealed, to be opened in the new year in a ritual called ‘opening the door of fortune’. Staying awake late or even all night is popular, as it is said to aid your parents’ longevity.
New Year’s Day is often marked with dancing lions and forework displays. But it’s also a day to honour your ancestors, and it’s typical to visit your older relatives.
That’s not the end, however. New Year celebrations continue for fifteen days, finishing with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. In China, Malaysia and Singapore, this day is equivalent to the Western Valentine’s Day. Single women tradiitonally write their name and number on a mandarin and throw it into a river or lake; single men gather the fruit and eat it. If the fruit is sweet, love may blossom; if sour, they are not destined to be together.
So what can you expect from Chinese New Year celebrations in Birmingham?
Kung Hey Fat Choi!
The Chinese New Year Festival will take place in the heart of the Chinese Quarter in Birmingham on Sunday February 18, from 11.30am till 5pm. Organised by the Chinese Festival Committee Birmingham, it will run throughout the area, with support from Birmingham Hippodrome and the Arcadian. In previous years 30,000 have come to celebrate together, with around 50% of them Chinese speakers – but all are welcome to join the celebrations. Expect Chinese regional street food, face-painting, music and cultural dancing – as well as glorious street decoration and the traditional lion dancers.
On New Year’s Day itself, February 16th, there will be celebrations on Colmore Row and at St Phillips Cathedral There are also plans for Chinese New Year celebrations at Birmingham City Football Club, on Saturday February 17th.
How will you be celebrating?